University names new medical school dean ​

David Perlmutter, MD, has been named executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine. His tenure begins Dec. 1.
David Perlmutter, MD, has been named executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine. His tenure begins Dec. 1.

David H. Perlmutter, MD, has been named executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine​ in St. Louis, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced. His tenure begins Dec. 1.

Perlmutter is a distinguished professor and the Vira I. Heinz Endowed Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He also is physician-in-chief and scientific director of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

A former Washington University faculty member, Perlmutter succeeds Larry J. Shapiro, MD, who is stepping down after leading the School of Medicine for 12 years.

“We are thrilled to welcome David Perlmutter back to Washington University,” Wrighton said. “He brings extraordinary vision and experience to bridge strengths across the School of Medicine, one of the world’s premier medical schools. We are confident we have found an exceptional leader who will carry on the legacy of excellence cultivated by Larry Shapiro.”

Before joining Pitt in 2001, Perlmutter spent 15 years as a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University, where he was the first to hold the Donald Strominger Professorship of Pediatrics.

“I spent most of my early career as a physician-scientist at Washington University and treasured my time in St. Louis working with so many exceptionally talented physicians and scientists,” Perlmutter said. “The School of Medicine has a rich history of leading the nation and the world in innovative clinical care, medical education and biomedical research, in addition to a wonderful culture of collaboration and community. I am deeply honored to take on this position and play a role in the next era of accomplishments at Washington University that lead to major advances in health care.”

The chancellor led a 14-member committee that selected Perlmutter after a national search of outstanding candidates. The search committee included the provost, university trustees, School of Medicine department heads and others.

Also joining the university faculty is Perlmutter’s wife, Barbara A. Cohlan, MD, who will be a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Newborn Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics. She is a professor of pediatrics at Pitt, where she directs the Normal Newborn Nurseries and the Neonatal Follow-up Clinic at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Perlmutter earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rochester and his medical degree from Saint Louis University School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, followed by research and clinical fellowships in pediatric gastroenterology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Perlmutter joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1983 and came to Washington University School of Medicine in 1986. He later led the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital before leaving for Pitt in 2001.

In addition to his many leadership roles, Perlmutter has sustained a productive research program. His lab has focused on understanding an inherited genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (ATD), in which accumulation of a misfolded protein causes severe liver damage in some of the affected individuals. His work also has led to advances in the general understanding of how cells get rid of misfolded proteins that otherwise would accumulate and become toxic.

Based on this research, Perlmutter and his colleagues developed a pipeline of drugs that stimulate degradation of the misfolded protein and prevent liver damage in a mouse model of ATD. The first of the drugs already has moved into a Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the treatment in people with the condition.

The goal of the trial is to determine whether this class of drugs can eliminate the future need for liver transplantation, the only treatment option for patients with progressive liver disease due to ATD. Because these drugs target a critical cellular degradation mechanism that declines with aging, they are being considered for treatment of age-dependent degenerative diseases.

Perlmutter has a long history of maintaining and growing financial support for basic research and physician training, especially through funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Under his leadership, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has been one of the fastest growing pediatric research programs in the nation, with a sixfold increase in NIH funding and the hiring of more than 300 new medical faculty members.

Perlmutter has been honored with numerous awards throughout his career, including the E. Mead Johnson Award for Research in Pediatrics from the American Pediatric Society, the Sass-Kortsak Award for Pediatric Liver Research from the Canadian Liver Association, and the Shwachman Award for Lifetime Achievement from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

In addition to his administrative and research activities, Perlmutter has served on many editorial boards, advisory boards and national committees. He is a past president of the Society for Pediatric Research and is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In 2008, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He has authored nearly 200 scientific publications and holds nine U.S. patents or patent applications.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.